Top editors and senior executives of the local media, while demanding a new press law that gives them more freedom, yesterday lamented that very few Qataris liked to enter the profession.
Qataris account for barely one percent of the journalists in the country. If one Qatari was trained as a journalist each year and deployed in the profession, there would have been 30 of them by now, said a senior media professional.
Veteran Qatari journalists called for the passage of a new press law that would give them more freedom to practise their profession and ensure that their rights are protected amid the challenges of the changing trends in their trade.
Most editors of Arabic dailies in Qatar agreed on the need to modify the old law for local media practitioners if only to come up with a reasonable regulation that will uphold and respect the rights of journalists during yesterday’s roundtable discussion at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel initiated by Doha Centre for Media Freedom.
Panelists thoroughly discussed the proposed new press law and pleaded for their inputs be taken into consideration by the consultative council of the State Cabinet now formulating such legislation. Even as the general mood of the discussion veered towards demanding more press freedom for local journalists in the face of the changing trends in global journalism, some of the panelists were also emphatic about the need to nationalise the local media.
Jaber Al Harami, editor-in-chief of Al Sharq newspaper, said a reasonable regulation which puts in place the new press law that respects press freedom is needed. The old press law formulated in 1979 has been good for it’s time, but no longer fulfils today’s demands.
He particularly cited the lapses in the old press law, where fine and censorship were not specifically explained to protect journalists. There were cases in the past when they were jailed along with ordinary law offenders.
A former judge agreed with Harami’s views, saying the old press law is incapable of regulating the modern day journalism. “Every law should be formulated taking into account the development taking place in Qatar”.
Media expert Mahmood Shammam, formerly with the Al Jazeera network, said the old law could be a factor why Qatar media is deteriorating and left behind by new trends that people seem to turn to “parallel media” like internet blogging where they can articulate their freedom of expression.
Abdullatif Al Mahmoud, general manager of Dar Al Sharq Publishing, said a new comprehensive law for journalists which will cover the online media is needed to keep up with the pace of time.
The managing editor of Al Raya newspaper, expressed disdain that there were still few Qatari journalists taking journalism jobs over the years that he pushed for Qatarisation of media outlets to address this concern. “Very few local Qatari journalists practice here even though they are more capable to express the local situation.”
A panelist from the academe also shared Issa’s views for the need to nationalize media work. Saying there is only a percent of Qatari journalists working in the country, he felt that if only there were even one Qatari journalist developed each year, there could have been 30 of them already professional journalists in the last 30 years.
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